WASHINGTON Janet Yellen was sworn in Monday as the 15th chairman of the Federal Reserve, becoming the first woman to lead the 100-year-old institution.
Yellen, 67, who previously served as vice chair at the central bank, succeeds former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for a four-year term that expires in 2018. Bernanke concluded his eight years of service on Jan. 31.
President Obama nominated Yellen, who was the former president of the San Francisco Fed and a member of the Council of Economic Advisors in the Clinton administration, in the fall. She was confirmed by the Senate 56 to 26 last month.
It will now fall to her to oversee how the Fed will continue to pull back its stimulus, while also keeping a watchful eye over the biggest financial institutions to avoid a relapse of the 2008 financial crisis.
Last week the Fed agreed to take another step forward in reducing the scale of its bond buying program down to $65 billion a month given the continued improvement in the U.S. economy.
Bernanke, who created the unprecedented and often controversial bond buying program, known as quantitative easing, will be joining the Brookings Institution as a distinguished fellow in residence with the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, the think tank announced.
In a blog post, David Wessel, director of the center and the Wall Street Journal's former economics editor, said the former Fed chairman, who is credited with helping to keep the U.S. financial system from the brink of collapse, will finally have a chance to reflect on his tenure as he "presided over an historic experiment in monetary policy."
Under Bernanke, the Fed created QE to give policymakers an additional tool to help the economy recover from the worst recession since the Depression. With the benchmark rate near zero for more than five years, the U.S. central bank turned to buying billions of long-term asset purchases, which expanded the Fed's balance sheet to $4 trillion.
"Ben Bernanke won't have to sit through any more meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee or deliver the Fed's semi-annual testimony to an occasionally hostile Congress or listen to complaints from emerging-market central bankers when central bankers gather in Basel, Switzerland," wrote Wessel. "He won't have to check the computer screen to see what's been happening in Asian markets when he gets up every morning."
At his last scheduled public appearance at Brookings, Bernanke said during the throes of the 2008 financial crisis he had little time to sit back and contemplate all that was happening. Instead, he described the experience as a drive gone awry. "If you are in a car wreck, you are mostly involved in trying to avoid not going over the bridge, and then later on you say, 'Oh my god.'"
While at Brookings, Bernanke is planning to write a book, according to Wessel.
"We're looking forward to helping Mr. Bernanke with the book he plans to write, and to getting his advice as we work through to improve public understanding of fiscal and monetary policy and improve the quality and effectiveness of those policies."